From the novels of Anne Rice to The Lost Boys, from The Terminator to cyberpunk science fiction, vampires and cyborgs have become strikingly visible figures within American popular culture, especially youth culture. In Consuming Youth, Rob Latham explains why, showing how fiction, film, and other media deploy these ambiguous monsters to embody and work through the implications of a capitalist system in which youth both consume and are consumed. Inspired by Marx's use of the cyborg vampire as a metaphor for the objectification of physical labor in the factory, Latham shows how contemporary images of vampires and cyborgs illuminate the contradictory processes of empowerment and exploitation that characterize the youth-consumer system. While the vampire is a voracious consumer driven by a hunger for perpetual youth, the cyborg has incorporated the machineries of consumption into its own flesh. Powerful fusions of technology and desire, these paired images symbolize the forms of labor and leisure that American society has staked out for contemporary youth. A startling look at youth in our time, Consuming Youth will interest anyone concerned with film, television, and popular culture.
Rob Latham is associate professor of English and American studies at the University of Iowa. He is coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies and of Modes of the Fantastic, a collection of essays on fantastic fiction and film.